Originally from Wokingham, Fiona Kesteven came to Sheffield 22 years ago for university and, like many, she never left. In 2014, in between working full time as a manager at Sport Sheffield, the University of Sheffield's sports facilities, and doing the school run for her two young children, Fiona began triathlon training. And just two years later, she swam, cycled and ran her way to bronze in the Lisbon ETU Triathlon European Championships and won gold in the Kalkar ETU Duathlon European Championships.
Here Fiona lets us in on how she got into the athletic contest, and how Sheffield’s facilities and clubs helped her along the way to becoming a champion.
How did you get into triathlon?
As a youngster I did gymnastics to a regional level and then took up springboard and highboard diving on coming to University in Sheffield and did diving nationals. I had given up any chances of representing my country, having got very close in both sports growing up. I did quite well in my first triathlon events and then started to take things a bit more seriously last summer with an aim to qualify for Team GB in my age group in triathlon. In the end I qualified in both triathlon and duathlon and was immensely proud when I got my GB kit! Triathlon is such a nice sport, and from my first event as a novice to the European Championship events I have met only friendly, enthusiastic and supportive people.
Where are you top 3 places to train in Sheffield?
The great thing about living near the Peak District is that you don’t necessarily have to pay to use facilities. Favourite cycle route – I often do a ride with my friend from Sheffield out to Baslow which is great training, but really anywhere in the Peak District is great. Favourite run route – I love fell running and have had some brilliant adventures with friends from Totley Athletics Club. Favourite swim place – after a shaky start I have grown to love open water swimming. I swim at Harthill reservoir a couple of times a week (between Sheffield and Worksop) with Yorkshire Outdoor Swimmers. I work at Goodwin Sports Centre, the University of Sheffield and it is not only a fantastic place to work but to train, with all the facilities I could ask for on my doorstep.
What sporting achievement you are most proud of so far?
My goal for last year was to qualify to represent Team GB at the Age Group European Triathlon and Duathlon Championships. The Duathlon Championships were held in Kalkar, Germany, in April and as a newbie I didn't go with any great expectations. I had a fantastic race and won my age group and was crowned European Champion! I went to Lisbon, Portugal, for the Triathlon Championships and was even more surprised to get a bronze medal in an extremely competitive field. The championship events are fantastic with a great team atmosphere. Just qualifying for these events and representing Team GB is an achievement, and to medal in two European Championship events this year was the icing on the cake!
What are your ambitions for the future?
I'd love to do more championship events but this all depends on funding. Age Group triathlon and duathlon are completely self-funded, which means everything from team kit, travel, accommodation and entry fees are paid by individuals with no subsidy from the British Triathlon Federation. This comes to several thousand pounds a year. I have been lucky to secure funding this year from local businesses: Everyday Juice Ltd, who offer health and wellbeing opportunities through the University of Sheffield, Redbrik Estate Agents and RoccaCreative, and to get some kit from Kitlocker. I’d love to do the World Championship events but the Duathlon is in Canada next year, which will be extremely expensive and take me away from my family and work, so at present it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to go.
What clubs/groups would you recommend for other people interested in your sport?
For a number of years Matt Norris who runs my local triathlon club, Racing TNT, encouraged me to take up triathlon. I found the time was right a couple of years ago and went to my first club session and haven’t looked back since! The club have been a massive support to me over my first couple of years in the sport and I would definitely suggest anyone considering taking up triathlon joins a club, as the support and camaraderie between members is ace! I also do some events with Sheffield Triathlon Club who are again a great club. I run for Totley Athletics Club and have found the club to be brilliant, with extremely friendly, supportive runners. Swimming is my weakest discipline of the three and I’ve been to sessions with Racing TNT, Swim Revolution and also have found a great coach, Richard Harland, who takes Swimfit at Ponds Forge International Sports Centre.
There are so many groups I can train with around Sheffield and they are all incredibly welcoming to any ability, from complete novices to more serious athletes. I would say to anyone considering trying a new sport like triathlon to stop thinking about it and make that initial move to join a club session. That’s what I did and I’ve made so many wonderful friends and am probably as fit and healthy as I have ever been in my life (at the grand age of 40!).